Archive | Southeast USA 2009 RSS feed for this section
September 25, 2009

Southeast USA 2009 Day 1: Getting Ready

Friday, September 25, 2009
Most vacations, I like to start off with a day off from work so I can get some last minute shopping and laundry done. Today was no different, as Daniel and I headed out to get some quick breakfast and to stop at the bank. I noticed that my TPMS monitor had come on in the CR-V yesterday, and today when I got into it, I noticed there was a slight list to the car. I figured I would stop and get some air before I ran my errands today and then get whatever the problem was fixed when I returned. On the way to the bank, I heard the distinct ‘click-click-click’ of a foreign object lodged in my wheel. When I arrived, I was hoping to see just a small rock in the wheel, but lo and behold there was a huge bolt!
Not wanting to risk being stranded on the day before the trip, I headed back home where we then got into Daniel’s Prius to do some errands. For this trip, I decided to retire my old red backpack that has traveled with me everywhere since the early 90s. It was tough to retire, but the fact that most of the zippers were stuck on one side, I decided it was time to upgrade. We ventured to REI where I picked out a nice Jansport blue backpack.
We finished up the errands and enabled our iPhones for MMS, and then as Daniel went to work, I got my tires fixed. Turns out my two front tires were over-worn from lack of tire rotation (I know, I know I have totally slacked on this CR-V!) so not only did I pony up the cash for a tire fix, but also for two new tires. The experts at America’s Tire had my repair job done in about 25 minutes. I was glad there were no other customers.
Heading home, I was thinking about the Michael Palin series “New Europe” which I have not seen all the way through. I bought the DVD in London in 2007 and have never converted it. It seemed like a good time to try, so tonight I have been attempting to get it converted to my iPhone to watch on the plane.
My Mac seems to not like converting foreign region DVDs, but thankfully my PC does not have such an issue. I am currently using a combo method which seems to be working. I might not have enough time to do the whole series before I depart, but I will try.
The rest of tonight will be spent packing and cleaning the apartment so that when I return it will be nice and inviting and not a mess.
Tomorrow starts another Trip Diary! I will try and do an update a day, but since we are still waiting final hotel and itinerary arrangements, I am not sure I will have wifi to do so. At any rate, the whole thing should be posted by Sunday Oct. 11.

September 26, 2009

Southeast USA 2009 Day 2: Santa Ana to Nashville

Saturday, September 26, 2009
Today it was up before dawn to get the finishing touches put together for my trip. I only managed about 4 hours of sleep, but I was hoping to get that back on one of the plane flights. As soon as I finished getting ready, Daniel woke up and drove me to the airport. It is nice to live close to an airport, even if it is one that you have to make connections to get anywhere significant.
The longest line was at the American “Bag Drop” Line which was wholly inefficient compared to their operations at LAX. The check in agents were a relic from a different time, and a different standard of dress and conduct compared to the other agents next to them from Virgin America that were sporting spiky hairdos and up to date designer clothing. The TSA line was uneventful except for the people who were in the expert line who should have been in the “I haven’t traveled since President Carter was in office” line. I dined on a quick McDonald’s breakfast – something of a favorite pre-flight meal of mine – Sausage Biscuit and Hash Browns thank you very much.
We had a minor fog delay before we were airborne. I slept rather nicely on the plane listening to my iPhone. I also used my iPhone to take some nice out the window snaps en route. On approach to Dallas, I discovered I had hit the DFW jackpot as my connecting plane was only 6 gates away, and in the same terminal! Mom and Gary were due in shortly and ended up arriving early, but paying for it because their gate was not ready and had to sit in the plane for a bit.
We had some snacks in the terminal before we boarded the plane to Nashville. As we were getting ready to go, the pilot informed us they had a bad tire and they needed to replace it. Sadly, I had an aisle seat so I could not see the huge jack or whatever they used to lift the plane up to replace it. I wonder if there was a bolt in their tire too??
45 minutes later, we were on our way. We encountered a bit more turbulence on this flight, mainly due to all the weather activity in the area. Nothing panic inducing, but enough to get your attention. The pilot did a bang up job making up time and we managed to arrive only about 30 minutes late into Nashville. We grabbed our bags and piled into our rented Hyundai Santa Fe and headed out to the hotel. Mom managed to score a Hyatt Place for our night stay and I was treated to a comfy sofa bed. We dropped off our bags and headed to get some food at the Steak N Shake near the Hermitage. I did not know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good and cheap the food was.
After eating, we decided to do a whirlwind tour of Nashville and environs. The Hermitage was closed already, but we swung by for a quick photo op, and will visit again tomorrow. Our tour took us downtown past the Titans’ Stadium, the State Capital with the tomb of James K Polk, and a quick drive by of the Ryman Auditorium, the old home of the Opry.
We headed back towards Gaylord Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry. There used to be a theme park called Opryland USA, but it was torn down and converted into the Opry Mills shopping center. Funny thing, is that there is this amazing resort (the Gaylord Opryland) and the Grand Ole Opry itself right there in the parking lot. We decided to forgo the $18 to park at the Opryland Resort and did the 5 min walk from the Opry Mills parking lot. It is a pretty amazing and borderline cheesy place, but it has these huge indoor atriums complete with a riverboat ride, a garden area, and a bunch of shops and restaurants. They also have a dancing waters show that we missed. I took a bunch of photos all over the hotel and then we drove over to the Grand Ole Opry, where I jumped out and took some photos out front.
By then we all were dragging from lack of sleep, but we wanted to get ready for our first drive day tomorrow, so we visited the Kroger Grocery store and stocked up on snacks and water for the trip. We are now all set for our drive tomorrow to Knoxville. We just need to decide what Nashville attractions we want to see now or on Friday when we come back. We are definitely going to have to miss some things on the trip because there is never time to see everything.

September 27, 2009

Southeast USA 2009 Day 3: Nashville to Knoxville

Sunday, September 27, 2009
Today we were off to Knoxville, TN, gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains and also Dollywood. Before leaving Nashville, we enjoyed the complimentary continental breakfast at the Hyatt Place and then headed over to the Hermitage. Having driven by last night, we easily got there with no major issues. On the way, I realized that Tennessee is homeland of TV’s Huell Howser. I quickly Googled which town he was from and discovered that it was Gallatin, TN, which is about 45 minutes away from Nashville. I suggested to the group that we try and swing by Huell’s hometown on our way to Knoxville.
The Hermitage was a very cool place to visit. It started with the pre-show of Jackson’s life that was a recent movie that was edited from pieces of the PBS special about his life and narrated by Martin Sheen. I learned a few things that I had forgotten about Jackson’s life so it was worth watching. We then grabbed our complimentary wireless headphones and proceeded on the self guided tour of the grounds.
I really like the way the Hermitage has balanced historical and modern perspective of the 7th President and even highlights the lives of the slaves on the plantation. It was not hard to imagine what it would been like to call upon The General in his retirement years at his stately manor. After winding around the grounds, we ended up at the actual house where Jackson and his family lived. I was amazed at how much of the house is still original items from the early to mid 1800s. They have retrofitted to add electricity to the place, but the guides do a great job detailing the rooms and the intricate details that are there in the place. It is about to go under renovation in a few years to do some overdue maintenance, and it does appear well worn. I am glad they are taking the time to restore it. According to the docents, it is one of the best preserved houses with the original stuff of all the presidents.
We then took some photos of the grounds and headed to the gardens to visit the graves of Andrew Jackson, his wife Rachel, and various family members. There was also the grave of Uncle Alfred – one of the prominent slaves of the Jacksons, who after his emancipation worked at the Hermitage, and when it opened to the public, he was one of the first tour guides. I thought the whole place was really run well and I am glad that I visited it.
We then headed to the car upon realizing that we had spent a bit too much time lingering. We had a dinner appointment with Gary’s relatives in Knoxville and we did not want to be late. I managed to take a photo of the exit for Huell’s hometown in Gallatin, but sadly will have to try and get there when we come back at the end of the week.
The drive to Knoxville was really pretty with nice big puffy clouds as well as scenic mountains and forests. We made a quick stop at Cracker Barrel for a pee break and then picked up a quick snack at Krystal Burgers where Mom nearly passed out when I accidentally gave her one with mustard on it and she took a big bite out of it.
We checked into the Residence Inn and then headed over to Gary’s cousin’s place for a delicious dinner and then spent the rest of the night lounging and chatting on the sofa. We called it a night around 11 and then headed back to get ready for the big event tomorrow: Dollywood!!

September 28, 2009

Southeast USA 2009 Day 4: Dollywood

Monday, September 28, 2009
I did not sleep very well during the night. I am not sure if it was due to the fact I was uncomfortable or that I was excited to see Dollywood. Mom and Gary woke me up at 8:30 and after another complimentary breakfast – this time featuring eggs, sausage, and pancakes – we were on our way.
Our hotel is on the west side of Knoxville so it took us about an hour to get to Pigeon Forge. The drive into Dollywood took us past many outlet malls, dinner theaters, and attractions including the under construction replica Titanic exhibit. It reminded me of a rural International Drive in Orlando or Harbor Blvd in Anaheim.
We arrived at Dollywood and parked and rode the tram to the Main Entrance. We went to purchase tickets and a Season Pass holder approached us and asked if we were buying one day tickets. She then informed us that she had a coupon to get us in for free if we filled out a form. As it turns out, she was only able to get Mon and Gary in, which was fine since I was the one who wanted to go in the first place. I told the ticket lady I was visiting from Disneyland and she seemed impressed that someone from there would come all the way to see them. She told me to be sure to see Sha-kon-a-hey, Dolly’s new musical about the Great Smoky Mountains.
We headed into the park and proceeded to the theater for the show. I actually enjoyed the show very much and is certainly better than some other theme park shows I have seen (I’m talking about you Beauty and the Beast at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!).
The rest of the day was spent at leisure throughout the park. I enjoyed a ride on the Dollywood Express Steam Train, Blazing Fury, the awesome Tennessee Tornado, the death-defying Mystery Mine, and finally the Thunderhead wooden coaster. I did really want to ride the Sky Zip, but it was an extra $40. Had I gotten in for free at the entrance, I’m pretty sure I would have done it. Also the show and train ate up a chunk of time that made us have to skip other things. As it was, we spent a lot of time walking around and looking at the shops and restaurants. Another highlight was the Dolly Parton “Chasing Rainbows” museum. It was wonderful and they said it’s being plussed up in the off season so I’m sure it will be even better.
I have to say, I really was impressed with Dollywood. It is one of the few non-Disney parks I have been to where the workers are friendly and really add to the show. Although, I did see one host talking on her cellphone walking through the park with a Burger King bag. Good thing I am on vacation or she would have been coached! The theming was very well done and I thank Dolly and her family of employees for welcoming me and showing me a great time.
We returned to Knoxville and went out to dinner with Gary’s cousin at a local Italian place. The food was not quite Petrillo’s or Miceli’s but it was filling and the atmosphere and company was great. After dinner, we went on a driving tour of downtown Knoxville and the University of Tennessee area. I loved the old Victorian homes and southern architecture. We made a pit stop at a McDonald’s where I got the lovely sight of discarded underwear in the stall.
We then ended the evening with another gab fest at Gary’s cousins house and then headed back to the hotel for the night. We are heading to Asheville, NC tomorrow via the Great Smoky Mtns National Park and Cherokee Nation. We are still trying to find a hotel, but will make a reservation before bed.

September 29, 2009

Southeast USA 2009 Day 5: Knoxville to Asheville

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Much better sleep last night. The Residence Inn has been having WiFi issues, so I was unable to upload my travel photos – hopefully I will get caught up over the next few days or at the worst, when I get back home. Today we again enjoyed the complimentary hot breakfast and headed out the door around 9:30 in the morning. We are retracing some of our journey from yesterday towards Dollywood, but we are heading past Pigeon Forge and on to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was also my turn to drive so after a few adjustments to our rented Hyundai Santa Fe, we were on our way.
First stop was a brief one at the post office for Gary, but we were back on the road to Gatlinburg. I decided at the last minute to swing by the Sunsphere in downtown Knoxville to take a photo of the site of the 1982 World’s Fair for Tiffany. A few snaps later it was back on I-40. We passed through Pigeon Forge again and flirted with the idea of making a few stops, but we pressed on to Gatlinburg. Gary mentioned that it is set up like a German themed town, which immediately brought to mind Solvang out in California. I immediately coined the phrase, “Solvang of Tennessee” and want to order T-shirts. We were looking for places to park so I could take a photo of Cooter’s, the Dukes of Hazzard museum and for Gary to see the Hard Rock, but we could not find one. We then took a side trip up to the Park View Hotel, overlooking Gatlinburg. Sadly, the lot was facing the wrong way to take photos of the town, but we did take some shots of the National Park and then of the 60s era architecture.
As we came down from the hotel, we ran smack dab into a religious Jubilee. There were thousands of Baptists running amok across the roads and it took us awhile to get clear of them so we could get back to the main road. We then headed into the Great Smoky Mountains Park proper and stopped taking photos at a few scenic overlooks, including Newfound Gap. It was super windy and cold up there, but it was nice to be out and about in nature, even if for a short time as we passed through the park. It also marked the boundary for North Carolina, my 31st state. I love it when they make easy to photograph signs!
After getting blown around, we then headed downhill into North Carolina towards the Cherokee Reservation. We did not spend much time there, but I can now say I have been to both the Navajo and Cherokee (Eastern) homelands. About an hour later we were back in civilization and approaching Asheville, NC our destination. We made good time today and it went by fast. We checked into the hotel, another Residence Inn with bad WiFi, but managed to secure our lodgings for the next two nights down in Atlanta.
With time to kill, we decided to head up to the Great Park Inn. It is one of the older establishments here in Asheville and world famous. Several presidents have stayed there and scores of dignitaries as well. It has a great Arts & Crafts style architecture and some of the furnishings and decor remind me of what Disney recreated at the Grand Californian Hotel. After noodling around and taking photos, we headed out to dinner. I chose Outback, since I was craving a bit of home and decided to treat Mom and Gary. We then headed back to the hotel to retire so we can get up early tomorrow.
Mom spent some time working on our last night reservations and then we decided late to head for an ice cream run. Sadly, the McDonald’s down the street was already cleaning their machine, so we decided to hit another one up on the North side of town. It turned out to be a Google Map phantom location, but we did get a nice tour of downtown Asheville. I decided to give it one more try with the one located near the Outback, and thankfully we were rewarded for our patience with a McFlurry for me and a Hot Fudge Sundae for Mom.
Heading back to the hotel, we saw the beginnings of a police confrontation with a person walking, and I told Mom as we were driving past that if I see a muzzle flash I am going to keep driving! Thankfully, we made it back safe and sound, although Gary was a bit worried. After making my sofa bed up, it is time for bed.
Tomorrow should take us down to Atlanta, GA via South Carolina. We are going to try and see what we can see of the Biltmore House that we can for free, but we might have to pay for parking. We thought that the Lost Sea was around here, but it turns out it was back towards Knoxville. That leaves us still to find some interesting sites to see on our way down to Georgia.
Operating Note: Flickr is now one day behind, but I will try and upload more as I sleep. Hopefully in the AM I will be all caught up!

September 30, 2009

Southeast USA 2009 Day 6: Asheville to Atlanta

Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Day 5 started like all of the other days here in The South, with a free breakfast at our hotel. We got a little bit of an earlier start today as we headed to the Biltmore Estate here in Asheville, NC in an attempt to get some exterior photos of the main house. We were stopped at the Visitor Center and told that we had to purchase a full price ticket to get even close to the house. We were shocked they they had changed it since Mom and Gary were here last time. Before, they were able to drive up to the house and pay up there. I can see how this keeps the undesirables away, but for people on a time constraint, it leaves little room for anything but disappointment. We did manage to get some photos at the entrance area and we picked up some small souvenirs at the gift shop to tide us over.
It was then time to hit the road again. Our target was Atlanta, GA via South Carolina. Our first stop was the small town of Hendersonville, NC where we wandered around the small downtown area before heading to the Wal Mart (if that is not a statement on society today, I don’t know what is). We wanted to stock up on snacks and such for the road trip, as well as do some shopping. Mom decided to get a quick bang trim at the hair salon since they were standing around with nothing to do. She came out a bit crooked, but what can you expect for less than $15. A quick fill up later, and we were on our way.
Just over the South Carolina border, we stopped at the Visitor and Welcome Center. I approved of the shop based on the fact they had a large South Carolina sign that was easily photographed. After peeing in my 32 state, we headed back on the road. Mom mentioned that they had a Guestbook that I should have signed, but it was too late as I was already on the freeway. Driving through South Carolina was nice, and we do wish we had time to stop and explore the sights, especially the BMW factory that we drove by in Spartanburg. I had forgotten that the home of the Z3 was here, and had I thought about it, I totally would have made the online reservations for a factory tour – even though I know there are no free samples. We didn’t stop again in South Carolina, so SC joins Idaho as states that have only gotten a pee stop and no further exploration. I would like to go to the coastal Carolinas at some point. I really liked North Carolina near Asheville, so I am interested to see what the rest of the state is like.
We then arrived in my 33rd state – Georgia! Pressed for time, we had to ditch the plan to go to Athens, GA to visit where Gary went to school, but we had to head to Stone Mountain to get there before the attractions closed. With all the driving, we neglected to get some lunch so we had to eat up valuable time eating at Zaxbys. Following Google Maps, we winded through the streets of Georgia until we arrived at Stone Mountain about 15 minutes before the last tram departed for the top of the mountain. They informed us that we would only have 20 minutes or so on the top before the last tram came down from the mountain or we would have to walk. I did a little shopping in the Gift Shop before we left for the top.
The windows of the aerial tram were all scratched up so we could not get any key photos of the carving on Stone Mountain of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E Lee. At the top, I quickly dashed out to take some photos of Downtown Atlanta and the surrounding areas in our small window of time. Some of the photos came out really well! Before we knew it, it was time to head back down to the ground. I found a cracked window where I shot a few photos of the tram route on the way down the side of the mountain. At the base, we were directed to the gift shop again (had I known this I would have waited for my souvenir shopping) before we went over to the Memorial area to take photos of the carving. I wish there were better vantage points to get closer to the mountain to really appreciate the size. It is hard to tell that Jefferson Davis is 9 stories tall when looking at it from afar.
Back on the roads, we headed towards Kennesaw, GA, our base for the next few days. The Atlanta traffic gods were kind to us with only minor delays on the way up. Everyone says that Atlanta has worse traffic than Los Angeles, and I am sure I will get to experience it at some point in the next few days. We checked into the hotel and headed to dinner with another one of Gary’s relatives. We lucked out and missed a big traffic collision by minutes – whew! We had a great dinner at Scalini’s in Smyrna which was the best Italian by far on this trip, and does give Petrillo’s a run for its money.
Tomorrow it is Atlanta tourist time. We will head down to the city to see some of the highlights!

October 1, 2009

Southeast USA 2009 Day 7: Atlanta Visiting

Thursday, October 1, 2009
Up a little late today, but sort of on purpose. We did not feel like braving the morning commute in the notorious Atlanta traffic, so we delayed our departure until after 9am. We had an errand to run before we could make our way down to the city center, and by the time we were on the road, we were pushing 1030, and we arrived at the CNN Center around 11.
I have to admit to a bit of geek-ness when I was at CNN, since I love to watch it, especially during breaking news. Of course, all the good stuff like The Situation Room and Anderson Cooper 360 are filmed in Washington and New York, but at least we got to see where the regular news desk is filmed. Gary had revealed that before CNN was there, it was the Wonderful World of Sid and Marty Kroft. I don’t know why, but that makes me laugh.
The actual studio tour was a bit worn and didn’t really cover what I thought it was, but it turns out we had just missed the VIP Tour which actually goes down into the newsroom. We were left with peering through the glass that overlooks the newsroom as well as taking photos at a fake desk. (Yes, there is a Gorn photo there I need to scan.) The tour took about an hour and after getting my complimentary Anderson Cooper bookmark and an extra one for Tiffany, we set out for the World of Coke.
World of Coke is just across Centennial Park from CNN. Centennial Park was built for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and it certainly has seen better days. Sure, there were parts that were still nice, but there were definitely some rough edges. I kept looking for a memorial for the bombing victims, but I could not find one. Before long, we arrived at the World of Coke.
I am not sure what to make of this place, it is basically part Coke museum and part repeated commercial. It was cool to see some of the older Coke promotional products, and I am sure if I collected Coke stuff I would have been in heaven. I enjoyed the bottling exhibit as well as the historical stuff, and the fact that most of the staff seemed to really enjoy their jobs. To me, personnel can make all the difference, even in a mediocre attraction. The other big let down was the tasting room. Had I never been to the Coke area at Epcot at Walt Disney World, this would have been amazing. Also, the fact that I stopped drinking soda and caffeinated beverages in January, blunted the experience. One of the things I wanted to try was Sprite Zero which actually was quite good since I drink a lot of Minute Maid Light Lemonade. What really amazed me was how awful regular Coke and Barq’s Root Beer tasted after not having them for 10 months. I guess I really am over having Soda! I will say the Pineapple Fanta from Greece was tasty as was some of the South American citrus drinks. After a brief scare where Mom left her cell phone behind but quickly recovered it, we headed out to find a landmark of Atlanta – Pitty Pat’s Porch.
For those of you who do not know, Pitty Pat was the name of Hattie McDaniel’s character in Gone With the Wind. Pitty Pat’s porch specializes in Southern Cuisine, and we were hoping to grab some lunch. After wandering around with some bad directions from Google Maps, we found the restaurant only to discover they had already closed from lunch and were not quite open for dinner. Disappointed, we headed back to the car and Mom and Gary decided to take me to the Varsity, a famous burger and hot dog diner next to Georgia State University. I can only imagine how crazy this place must get on Saturdays during football season! The food was good and cheap with fries that remind me of In-n-Out and shakes that remind me of Bob’s Big Boy. The burger I had (Sorry purists, I was not in the mood for a hot dog) was good, but Steak N Shake still has my favorite so far of the trip.
We were pushing 4:30 so we knew we needed to head back to Dallas, GA for a family dinner with Gary’s relatives, and after a quick photo stop at the Margaret Mitchell House, we were on our way. I can not believe how long it took us to get back to our hotel to drop some stuff off and then head to Gary’s Aunts house. It took just over two hours since we left downtown to get there, and most of the bad traffic was on the side streets! I felt like I was driving from Burbank to Anaheim on the I-5 on a Friday.
By the time we got there, people were already eating, but we quickly joined in and sat down for a reunion. Most people I had never met, and a few I knew from Mom’s wedding and just from meeting over the years. We stayed until after midnight chatting which made for a late arrival back at the hotel. I had hoped to meet up with Colleen from High School while I was here, but she had gotten back late from her event as well. Hopefully, she will hit the OC in the coming year or at the very least see her at the High School Reunion in the Bay Area next year.

October 2, 2009

Southeast USA 2009 Day 8: Atlanta to Franklin

Friday, October 2, 2009
Today we had a lot of errands to run around Atlanta and we did not make it out of the area until after 1pm. On the list, we visited Gary’s sister and his childhood home, as well as his parent’s graves. I was glad that we got most of the family stuff done that we needed to, and it was worth being a little late.
Before departing, we made one stop at a KFC that had a huge mechanical chicken on top of the restaurant in Marietta, GA and then tried to find the world headquarters of The Weather Channel. TWC was not a well marked building and we had to make a grand circle before we arrived. I was disappointed there were not any gift shops or cardboard cut outs of TWC weathermen, but I did at least get to take a few photos.
It was finally time to collect our bags and hit the road out of town. Hunger didn’t let us get far so we ate at Mrs. Winners chicken restaurant for lunch and gassed up the Santa Fe before finally leaving the greater Atlanta area.
After almost two hours we arrived in Chattanooga, TN. We thought that would put us back in Central Time, but sadly not – the Central time border is just a little farther west. We first stopped at the old Chattanooga train depot where the station and the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo arrived and departed. It is now a Holiday Inn where you can sleep and have meetings in the rail cars. I think it is a cool concept and want to stay there sometime.
Next up, we headed up towards Lookout Mountain hovering above Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain is home to three attractions: The Incline Railway, Rock City, and Ruby Falls. Ruby Falls looked the most interesting to us and was open the latest so we headed there. The outside reminded me of the Loch Ness Monster Visitor Center in Scotland, but the inside was considerably more modern. We descended down into the mountain with a guide and walked along narrow paths stopping at various formations in the tight caverns. This is certainly not a place for claustrophobics! Finally, we arrived at Ruby Falls which has its own timed light show. I was impressed that the lights were all high efficiency LEDs. It seems the attraction was renovated recently to make it a Global Green Attraction that uses minimal power. I like that they timed the show to prevent people from lingering too long and to keep the groups moving through the area.
On our way out, they were prepping for the Ghost Cavern experience where they send you down one of their caverns they normally use for evacuations and scare you with chain saws and zombies in the dark. Somehow, I think the tight spaces lend itself to being more scared than your typical haunted maze.
We then departed Chattanooga and headed towards Nashville. We stopped for dinner after we careened down I-24 back into Georgia and then it curved back into Tennessee. We ate at a Western Sizzle restaurant which was a glorified Sizzler. It was good food, with the exception of toothpick remnants that I encountered in my fillet.
By the end of the dinner, it was late, but we gained an hour now that we were finally back in Central time. We decided to take the off-interstate detour to drive by the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, TN. It is way off the beaten path and in the middle of two interstates. It took us an hour to get there and then a little over an hour to get back to the Interstate. Google Maps again wanted to send us in the wrong area, but at least there are signs in the major tourist areas to keep you heading in the right direction. We did miss one turnoff on our way back to the Interstate, but at least we were still going in the right direction so there was only a minor delay. These rural areas must have had a great meteor shower show! We did have a full moon so even though it was dark, we could still see.
We finally made it to Franklin, TN and our final Residence Inn. This one had just opened and it showed. It was completely up to date with all the modern conveniences and decorations. The sofa bed was about the same as the rest, but it was nice to not see any weird stains or crumbs when you unfolded the mattress.
Tomorrow we fly home, and we plan on seeing historic Franklin and then do some last minute drive-bys in Nashville before catching our plane home.

October 3, 2009

Southeast USA 2009 Day 9: Franklin to Santa Ana

Saturday, October 3, 2009
Our last day in the South dawned in Franklin, TN at the uber-swank Residence Inn. We took it easy in the morning, despite having a lot to do today, but since we arrived at the hotel late last night due to the long drive from Atlanta, we needed the slow start. It also helped that this Residence Inn had a later breakfast schedule than the others. We finally loaded up the Santa Fe and headed into historic Franklin. We were not sure what we were going to see, but Mom had gathered some brochures to steer us around.
After driving though downtown, we first stopped at the Carter House. No, it is not where our 39th president was from, but rather an important historical location for the 1864 Battle of Franklin during the Civil War. It turns out, the Carter House was right near the battle lines between the Federal and Confederate forces and the house itself was hit with thousands of bullets. You can still see some of the holes in the wood of the house as well as some of the out buildings on the property. We decided against taking the guided tour as we were pressed for time, but it was nice to walk around the property.
Next stop was the Carnton Plantation and Battlefield. It took us some time to get there since we missed the sign for the turnoff. Fortunately, it is a beautiful area with lots of nice big homes and ranches so we did not mind too much. Carnton was also at the center of the Battle of Franklin – a place where nearly 10,000 people died. The Plantation is also the site of a Confederate Cemetery. The owner of the house, John McGavock set aside land after the Civil War after discovering the poor condition of the Confederate graves. While we were there, they were setting up for a wedding in the back of the house so we took our photos of the house and the grounds before heading down the road. It was my first visit to a Civil War site and I was glad that I finally was able to be somewhere that had so much history.
Completely shifting gears, we headed towards the Loveless Cafe made famous by the Food Network. True to word, when we arrived, the place had over an hour wait for lunch. We were starting to get pressed for time to get to the airport, so we decided to head to Krystal Burgers for lunch. Heading down the road back into Nashville proper, we were having a difficult time finding a Krystal and our adventures took us on side streets near Vanderbilt University. I must say as much as I love UC Davis, these Eastern schools always have a different feel about them. Maybe it is all the rabid college football fans that are around the area. Finally, we gave up searching for Krystal and headed to the airport.
We had about an hour to get to the gate for boarding, but thankfully BNA is a smaller airport and it was not very busy. We checked in our bags (arrrgh – stupid American and it’s $20 baggage fee!) and made it through security with about 10 minutes to spare before boarding. I decided to grab a last minute Burger King fix to take on the plane, so I raced down the terminal to get it. By the time I got back to the gate, Mom and Gary and their preferred status were already on the plane, leaving me to wait until Boarding Group 6 was called. Once on board, I chowed down on my BK and was ready to leave.
The flight to Dallas went smoothly and Mom and I discussed a few things about our forthcoming trip to Argentina. It was only a 90 minute flight so before we knew it we were on the ground in Dallas. Mom and Gary had to rush to make their connection in another area of the terminal so we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. I headed down to my gate where I proceeded to wait and wait and wait for my flight. We were about 45-mintues late leaving due to a mechanical problem in the galley, and right before we boarded, the paramedics were called for a passenger. There was a conspicuous empty row of seats once we were on board, so I hope all turns out OK.
On the aircraft, I had two overexcited, overweight musician types to my left and behind me I had this man who had a 10 month old kitten that was sedated as his carry-on. Actually, I think the kitten had its own seat on the plane. It meowed on and off through the flight, and thankfully the musicians slept for most of the flight. I got to watch two episodes of New Europe on the flight and I was impressed with some of the visuals that Michael and his team got, especially towards the end of episode two in Turkey.
I was finally on the ground at SNA after three grueling hours. Daniel came and picked me up and after a brief stop at Del Taco, we arrived back at my apartment. This trip was certainly a lot of fun, and I loved so many things about it: new states, meeting new people, Dollywood, the western part of North Carolina, and much more!
Stay tuned for further adventures!